The inability of some lawyers to meaningfully connect with their clients is hardly surprising. The long hours, stressful situations and ensuring that they are keeping up with the latest issues/updates to the law can result in clients being overlooked and feeling unloved. Soft Skills such as an ability to communicate and connect with clients may be lacking, but with a bit of extra care, can result in long term stickiness for clients looking for a lawyer. Here are 4 ways law firms can build relationships:
1. Build awareness
For any leader or manager seeking success, awareness of business goals is crucial. Lawyers need to ensure that they command the trusted adviser role. They should be transitioning from providing a functional service to becoming a vital resource for their clients. Lawyers need to ask more than just the legal matter at hand as this will help connect you with your clients and build out a relationship that may either lead to additional work or referrals.
It is important to capture these additional conversations in a central repository, allowing to check in on more personal aspects of the relationship such as a child’s sporting match, ensuring that a loved one is being looked after, or even checking in on a birthday.
2. Become storytellers
Be willing to tell a story to help communicate something that could be complex. By using simple analogies or stories from your own personal experience this will allow the client to connect and better understand a potentially complex legal situation.
A deeper connection can occur if you use analogies or stories from information the client has given to you about themselves. If they like basketball then a basketball analogy will go much further then a football analogy.
3. Ask more questions
Lawyers might be fearful of asking too many questions in case their question is reflected back to them and they do not know the answer on the spot. They might hold the expectation that since the client is paying for their expertise and their time, then they must have the right answer for them right there. A common concern is that this could be embarrassing for the lawyer, and may make them look incompetent in front of their client.
Open-ended questions are a good way to engage with clients without the need to give poor legal advice. Open-ended questions such as: What else? If you did know, what would it be? And how do you feel about the situation?
Additionally, asking clients why they are in business, finding out their strategic goals, and checking what their future holds allows you to better understand your client and their needs. You will then be able to apply the details into the situation when needed
By asking more questions lawyers will be able to get a better picture of their client and the situation, as well as, ultimately, deliver greater value.
4. Aim for structure
Look to “the five Ps” to provide structure:
- PLAN To build a client’s strategic foundation by better understanding the client's situation. By setting goals with the client an effective plan can be put together to ensure the client receives what they need.
- PATTERN Identify patterns by reflecting on past experiences (with the client or on past similar cases) and learn from those instances. It is important that the client has a consistent positive experience, even if they are with another lawyer within the same firm.
- POSITION This is about how the firm has positioned the client for growth. This may be in a commercial sense or from a family matter. It is important that the law firm position their client in the clearest way possible for growth. Being able to record the current stakeholders and have the client effectively communicate about these stakeholders will allow the lawyer to better position the client.
- PERSPECTIVE Work with clients to ensure that their perspectives are kept in check along the journey. They may need to adjust their goals and expected initial outcomes may need to be adjusted as needed. It is important that these communications are tracked and recorded.
- PLOY Give the client control back by outsmarting the competition. It is important that lawyers stay afresh and up-to-date on the current trends that will allow them to be able to better understand the changing environment. These changes should be communicated with the client in simple and engaging ways, you may want to consider an analogy or story.
These strategies can go a long way to build a connection with your clients helping to assist in return business, effectively helping to future-proof your firm.